• OPINION \ Jul 02, 2024
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    An Evaluation of The World Evangelical Alliance's Response to Gaza Crisis - by Dr. Salim Munayer
An Evaluation of The World Evangelical Alliance's Response to Gaza Crisis - by Dr. Salim Munayer

 

He has told you, O mortal, what is good and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice and to love kindness
and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8, NRSVue)
 
The World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) represents a vast network of evangelical Christians and wields considerable influence over its international constituency, particularly when navigating complex geopolitical conflicts. In examining the WEA's responses to crises across different regions, particularly in the MENA region, it is crucial to assess their engagement and rhetoric. This scrutiny is essential not only for ensuring accurate representation and advocacy but also for fostering a deeper understanding and solidarity among global Christian communities.
 
The purpose of this analysis is to uncover any partiality or discrimination in the WEA’s approach to conflicts, notably the ongoing strife in Gaza. Many church leaders worldwide must be aware of the dynamics in the MENA region and how the international evangelical community’s discourse shapes perceptions and actions. Proper advocacy and balanced discourse are critical; without them, one-sided and partial views may prevail, hindering Western Christians from fully understanding and supporting their MENA counterparts. This critique underscores the need for the WEA to adopt a more forthright and balanced discourse, particularly regarding the disproportionate suffering in Gaza and the West Bank.
 
By highlighting these discrepancies, we aim to prompt a recalibration of how evangelical entities like the WEA report on and engage with global conflicts, ensuring that their advocacy not only speaks to the facts on the ground but also resonates with the principles of justice and mercy central to the Christian faith.
 
Specifically, when examining the WEA’s statements on conflicts in regions like Ukraine, Armenia, and the Gaza Strip, they show a marked difference in both tone and engagement. For example, the WEA's response to the conflict in Ukraine is marked by strong, decisive language and significant mobilization of resources. The discourse is replete with direct condemnation of aggression and a vivid depiction of the suffering inflicted upon Ukrainian civilians. Furthermore, in Ukraine, the WEA’s communications showcase their direct involvement in relief operations, such as distributing essential goods and establishing shelters. These actions and the organization’s proactive stance are commendable and align with evangelical Christian values of defending the oppressed and providing for the needy.
 
Contrastingly, the WEA's approach to the Gaza conflict is considerably more restrained. First, whilst the WEA has partnered with local organizations to navigate complex geopolitical barriers and facilitate aid distribution, the scope and impact of these efforts are less prominently featured in their communications. Second, whilst the organization does not shy away from organizing aid and calling for peace, its statements lack the vigor or specificity seen in its response to the Ukrainian crisis. The discourse tends to equalize the suffering on both sides without adequately addressing the disproportionate impacts of the conflict. For instance, while the WEA condemns violence from all parties, there is a notable absence of specific language addressing the severe consequences of Israeli military actions on Palestinian civilians. This generalized and cautious rhetoric fails to reflect the disproportionate violence faced by Gazans, which is well-documented and widely recognized, and does not confront the systemic issues underlying the conflict.
 
Furthermore, in its public communications and reports, the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) often refrains from citing specific numbers and statistics concerning the casualties and the extent of suffering in Gaza and the West Bank. This contrasts sharply with their detailed reporting on other conflicts, such as in Ukraine, where the WEA provides precise figures on displacement, injuries, and infrastructure damage. This inconsistency in data presentation not only affects the perceived severity of the Gaza conflict but also raises concerns about the equitable representation of all suffering under the WEA's purview. By omitting detailed statistics on Palestinian casualties and damage, the WEA inadvertently contributes to a narrative that may underplay the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the West Bank. Such an approach could undermine the organization's credibility as a global evangelical leader committed to truth and transparency in all areas of conflict. It is crucial for the WEA to adopt a more consistent and forthright strategy in reporting the impacts of all conflicts to ensure balanced advocacy and informed support from the global evangelical community.
 
In addition, an analysis of the language used by the WEA’s Peace and Reconciliation Network (PRN) in other contexts shows a capacity for robust and impactful discourse. The PRN’s descriptions of the plight of women in the Ukraine conflict are vivid and evocative, painting a detailed picture of their suffering and the broader societal impacts of the war. Such language powerfully advocates for the needs of those affected, engaging the global evangelical community in a call to action. Similarly, the PRN's articles on the Artsakh War employ a potent narrative that highlights historical injustices and current atrocities, invoking a sense of urgency and moral outrage. This strong language mobilizes support and fosters a deep understanding of the Armenians' plight, demonstrating that the WEA can indeed articulate compelling advocacy when it chooses to.
 
Our analysis of the World Evangelical Alliance’s (WEA) approach to advocacy highlights a critical need for the organization to reevaluate its communication and advocacy strategies. This is particularly crucial in relation to MENA Christians and, by extension, Palestinian communities whose voices are often marginalized within global evangelical discourse. There is a pressing necessity to create spaces within the international Church for these concerns to be not only heard but actively engaged with, fostering stronger solidarity across the global Christian community.
 
The WEA's current language and approach, shaped by political, theological, and economic factors, can inadvertently perpetuate discrimination. This is particularly evident in the cautious discourse concerning Palestinian Christians and the broader Palestinian populace. Such reluctance, often arising from fear of pushback from influential evangelical and political groups in the West, undermines the WEA’s credibility. However, like Nehemiah, who faced significant opposition in his efforts to rebuild Jerusalem, the WEA’s leadership must exhibit resilience and vision in advocating for those affected by conflicts in the MENA region.
 
In regions like Gaza, where the scales of justice and suffering are dramatically skewed, the WEA’s generalized calls for peace and unity gloss over the systemic injustices and profoundly asymmetrical nature of the conflict. This diplomatic caution not only obscures the harsh realities faced but risks eroding the WEA’s legitimacy as a credible voice for evangelical and humanitarian principles. To address these issues, it is crucial for the WEA to adopt a language of advocacy that is as impassioned and specific for MENA conflicts as it is for others, such as the crises in Ukraine. The organization must advocate passionately and impartially, ensuring that its calls for peace and justice are as robust for Palestinian civilians as they are for others around the world.
 
By fostering dialogues that transcend political and theological biases, the WEA can offer a more balanced and comprehensive representation of all communities affected by conflict. In the spirit of Apostle Paul’s unwavering commitment to truth and justice during his trials, as depicted in Acts 24-26, the WEA must also stand firm in its advocacy. It must ensure that its message not only calls for peace but actively addresses the roots of conflicts, embodying the robust advocacy and compassion at the heart of the Christian Gospel.
 
Encouragingly, steps can be taken to mitigate these challenges. Educational initiatives that raise awareness of the complex realities faced by MENA Christians, advocacy training that equips leaders to speak out effectively against injustice, and forums for inter-regional dialogue are all measures that can enhance the global Church’s capacity to advocate more effectively.
Moreover, these efforts should aim to address the root causes of injustice with unwavering commitment and faith, ensuring that the advocacy does not inadvertently overlook or diminish the suffering of any group, especially those caught in profoundly asymmetrical conflicts.
 
Additionally, it is crucial to highlight the role of local evangelical churches in the MENA region. These churches must adopt a proactive approach, advocating within their communities and influencing the WEA’s agenda to ensure their concerns are recognized and addressed. Like their successful counterparts in other regions, MENA churches should develop robust advocacy skills through educational initiatives that raise awareness of their unique challenges, provide advocacy training for church leaders, and establish forums for dialogue that extend across regional and global evangelical communities. By enhancing their advocacy capabilities, these churches can better guide the WEA in its mission to promote justice, mercy, and equity, thereby reflecting a truly global and inclusive Christian solidarity.
 
Thus, the call for a recalibrated advocacy approach by the WEA must concurrently be a call for local MENA churches to assertively claim their space at the table. As they develop their advocacy capabilities, they ensure that the narrative and actions of the global evangelical community are enriched with a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the MENA region's unique context.
 
As the WEA and MENA churches navigate the complexities of global advocacy amid conflicts, it is crucial that the organizations strengthen their commitment to Christian principles of justice, mercy, and the inherent dignity of every human being. This call for a more robust and equitable response aligns with the core teachings of Christianity, which compel us to be voices for the voiceless and defenders of the oppressed.
 
For as Matthew tells us, “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9), and just as Amos called for justice to 'roll down like waters' (Amos 5:24), the WEA is positioned to be a prophetic voice in today's world, advocating fiercely for justice and mercy across all nations, particularly within the MENA region. As our organization strives to fulfill its divine mandate, let us be ever- guided by the wisdom of Proverbs 31:8-9, which exhorts us to:
 
Speak out for those who cannot speak, for the rights of all the destitute.
Speak out; judge righteously;
defend the rights of the poor and needy. (NRSVue)
 
 
Let us, therefore, go forth and embody these words. Let us always rise to meet the challenges of our time with courage and clarity, ensuring that our advocacy does not merely respond to the symptoms of injustice but addresses its root causes with unwavering commitment and faith. Let us demonstrate what it truly means to advocate for those who are silenced by injustice. Let us pray that this call to action shall resonate not just within the corridors of power but in every heart committed to making the Gospel alive in our troubled world.
 
Examined Sources:
 
“Addressing the Situation of Religious Minorities in Sri Lanka and in Afghanistan during the Dialogue with the High Commissioner for Human Rights - WEA at the United Nations.” WEA at the United Nations -, October 4, 2021. https://un.worldea.org/addressing-the- situation-of-religious-minorities-in-sri-lanka-and-in-afghanistan-during-the-dialogue- with-the-high-commissioner-for-human-rights/.
 
“Evangelical Community Responds to Crisis in Ukraine : World Evangelical Alliance.” World Evangelical Alliance | WEA seeks to strengthen local churches through national alliances, supporting and coordinating grassroots leadership and seeking practical ways of showing the unity of the body of Christ., November 9, 2022. https://worldea.org/crisis- response/.
 
“Hearing from the Church: A Middle East Voice on Israel and Gaza.” PRN, October 13, 2023. https://www.reconciledworld.net/newsroom/blog/detail/hearing-from-the-church-a- middle-east-voice-on-israel-and-gaza/.
 
Reimer, Johannes. “Women - the Sufferers of the War in Ukraine.” PRN, March 21, 2022. https://www.reconciledworld.net/newsroom/blog/detail/women-the-sufferers-of-the-war- in-ukraine/.
 
“Responding to Violence against Minorities in Pakistan: World Evangelical Alliance.” World Evangelical Alliance | WEA seeks to strengthen local churches through national alliances, supporting and coordinating grassroots leadership and seeking practical ways of showing the unity of the body of Christ., September 11, 2023. https://worldea.org/ news/23486/responding-to-violence-against-minorities-in-pakistan/.
 
Simonian, Craig, and Phil Wagler. “Hearing from the Church: Armenians under Pressure in Artsakh.” PRN, September 27, 2023. https://www.reconciledworld.net/newsroom/blog/ detail/armenians-under-pressure-in-artsakh/.
 
Simonian, Craig. “Hearing from the Church: Understanding the Current Suffering of Armenians in Artsakh.” PRN, August 2, 2023. https://www.reconciledworld.net/newsroom/blog/ detail/understanding-the-current-suffering-of-armenians-in-artsakh/.
 
“Two Peoples, One Church: World Evangelical Alliance.” World Evangelical Alliance | WEA seeks to strengthen local churches through national alliances, supporting and coordinating grassroots leadership and seeking practical ways of showing the unity of the body of Christ., November 24, 2023. https://worldea.org/news/24186/two-peoples-one- church/.
 
“WEA Marks the 30th Anniversary of the Massacre of Armenian Christians during the First Karabakh War - WEA at the United Nations.” WEA at the United Nations -, September
 
27, 2022. https://un.worldea.org/wea-marks-the-30th-anniversary-of-the-massacre-of- armenian-christians-during-the-first-karabakh-war/.
 
“WEA Responds to the Holy Land: World Evangelical Alliance.” World Evangelical Alliance | WEA seeks to strengthen local churches through national alliances, supporting and coordinating grassroots leadership and seeking practical ways of showing the unity of the body of Christ., February 19, 2024. https://worldea.org/wea-responds-to-the-holy-land/.
 
“WEA Side Event on Manipur Violence Gets Worldwide Attention: World Evangelical Alliance.” World Evangelical Alliance | WEA seeks to strengthen local churches through national alliances, supporting and coordinating grassroots leadership and seeking practical ways of showing the unity of the body of Christ., September 25, 2023. https://worldea.org/ news/23670/wea-side-event-on-manipur-violence-gets-worldwide-attention/.
 
“WEA’s Statement on the Holy Land Conflict: World Evangelical Alliance.” World Evangelical Alliance | WEA seeks to strengthen local churches through national alliances, supporting and coordinating grassroots leadership and seeking practical ways of showing the unity of the body of Christ., October 9, 2023. https://worldea.org/news/23784/weas-statement- on-the-holy-land-conflict/.
 
“World Evangelical Alliance Facebook.” Facebook. Accessed April 23, 2024. https:// www.facebook.com/worldea/.
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